Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

December 25, 2013
Merry Christmas everyone.  This is Adam's mom.  We did not receive an email from Adam this week because we got to skpe him instead.  We gathered with extended family members on Christmas night and visited  with Elder Vore for about an hour.  He was online in an internet café in Baku, Cambodia with a time difference of 13 hours later.  Grandpa Vore set up the projector and put his image on the big screen, while his brother Joseph added external speakers to the computer so everyone could hear and see him.  It was so wonderful to see and hear our missionary.  He looks happy, healthy, and excited to be a missionary.  I took a few notes from our conversation and will give a short summary of the questions and answers.

Elder Vore said that he loves serving in Baku and will be there for 6 more weeks at least. There are currently no organized stakes in the country of Cambodia, but the mission goal is 2 stakes (maybe this year, but not sure).  The people work very hard in factories all day and then leave the factory to go work in their rice fields.

When asked what he missed most about home he replied "I miss sitting down and relaxing for a while and I miss my family."

What is the best thing about your mission?  "The best is when people change, come to church for the first time,  understand why they are there, and they are happy."

How have you changed? "My knowledge of the scriptures has increased and my testimony has been strengthened."

Do you think in Khmer (Cambodian language)?  "No, I think in English, but sometimes dream in Khmer."

What are some of your needs or wants?  "Hot water!"  Elder Vore does not have any hot water where he is living.  He takes a shower by dumping buckets of cold water on his head.  His little sister asked him if he liked taking a shower like that and he said, "it isn't very fun."

We sent him a package with Christmas presents and found out that the yummy Christmas popcorn goes stale pretty fast.  He also said that he doesn't need any chapstick.  He uses it about as much as he uses mittens.

When asked about mosquitos, he said they are everywhere with lots of standing water.  He usually has between 40-100 mosquito bites at any time.

How do you feel about your mission president?  "He is an awesome spiritual leader who you can talk to about anything.  His wife is the same."

How much does it cost to use the internet café?  "50 cents per hour"

"Missions are fun all the time, but they are exhausting!"


                                                  Chatting with Adam on Christmas Day

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dec 15, 2013 Free to Choose

We had two lessons fall through one day so we decided to go exploring. Today exploring took us out to a neighboring province called kampung speu. We wandered for about an hour and a half talking to anyone who looked at us. After very little success we turned back home but because we were coming from a new area, we didn't really know where we were and were kind of lost. While biking in the general direction of our house, in an area we had not planned to visit and far from our normal routes, a man called out to us. We were well past him but decided to turn back and see what he had to say. He told us, in English no less, that he was a recent convert to the church, that he had converted in Korea but moved back to Cambodia two weeks before and that he wanted to know where the meetinghouse was. Well, for those of you unfamiliar with missionary work or the general state of religion in Cambodia, it is very rare for people to just jump at you and ask things like ''do you think I could go to your church and worship with you? Would that be ok?'' While leaving his house my companion and I decided it was a miracle. So far from the city, in a random, untraveled part of an area we just opened last month there happened to be a recent convert who wanted to go to church. Coincidences just don't go that far.



We had a funny language slip up the other day. Some elementary knowledge on Khmer is necessary so bear with me for a second. The word for wood is chuu (sounds a lot like the vowel in gOOd). The word for cross/crucify is chkang  and the word for dog is chkae. Right, well while teaching about the Atonement, Elder Caine got to the part of the story where Christ is crucified on the cross. Obviously, he has taught this hundreds of times but this time, for whatever reason the sentence didn't come out quite right. Rather than saying ''Christ dies on a chuu chkang'' he said that ''Christ died on a chuu chkae''. Really somewhat similar sounding, however, Christ did not die on a wooden dog for our sins. The person we were teaching is already a member and knows that the foreign Elders sometimes make slip ups and he politely let it slide. I however began laughing. It wasn't the most reverent lesson we've had on the Atonement so we decided to stop and restart it all. Fun story though. Just in case anyone was confused, Christ died on a cross, not a wooden dog.

This week has been a fun one for the language. I've been trying to write down every single word that I hear that I don't know. Obviously, that's a little impossible but I have had some success. It's led to me learning some really random words like: mermaid, wisdom teeth, pleat, MSG, toad, baby shrimp, crude oil and term of office. Some people could tell me that those aren't really useful words but every single one of them came up in conversation this week so we gotta use them sometime right?
I carry a small Book of Mormon with me in my backpack. It's mostly for translating purposes (eg. ''Elder what does this verse mean?'' and I read it in English rather than Khmer) and to use the English index, because looking for stuff with Khmer alphabetizing is awful, but I also study from it when we end up waiting for someone. While reading this particular copy, I have underlined everything that represents divine intervention or help/guidance from God. You might be surprised at how often it comes up.

Yesterday while reading in 2 Nephi chapter 2 I noticed that I wasn't underlining as much as I normally did. Why? Because 2 Nephi chapter 2 is the prophet Lehi's teachings on Adam and Eve, choices, agency and accountability. Many verses in this chapter focus on our own ability to choose good or evil and the fact that God will let us choose evil and the consequences thereof. ''Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.  And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27).''

All of us at one point or another choose to sin, it's a part of life! Because of this, God sent his only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our sins so that through repentance, baptism and sanctification by the Holy Ghost we might be saved (3 Nephi 27:19-20). This is the ultimate act of divine intervention. ''For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).''
Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Dec 8, 2013 I Wouldn't Be Much of a Firefighter

''What makes America great is not democracy, it's Twinkies.'' -Elder Caine

I had ant soup last night. Yeah, really. When a member gave us some soup we kind of had to take it. Once getting home we warmed it up, cooked the rice and served it. Elder Caine looked before taking a bite (not really a good practice to get into around here) and said, ''There sure are a lot of ants in this aren't there?'' As I've mentioned before, having ants in your food is a pretty regular occurrence, though I had to agree with him, there were a lot of ants. I recognized them as ongkrong, large tree ants that the locals eat on purpose (that's the stuff I took pictures of like 6 months ago. Fried ants? Remember?) and told him that they were probably there on purpose. Elder Caine has actually never even heard of people eating ants so he was pretty reluctant about putting anything in his mouth. He gave me a piece of meat covered in ants and told me he'd believe me if I ate it. Well, I couldn't wimp out of that one could I?  Dinner was a little quiet...
Ant Soup
  
You know how I was saying this place doesn't have a whole lot of infrastructure? Well that includes the trash truck. In most of the city you get a truck that will come by and take your trash away if you put it outside, however, we are very far from the city. Our trash was piling up and we asked our landlady what we were supposed to do about it. She told us we could do whatever we wanted to do with it. Well, that was a downer. I was really hoping she would just call someone and it would disappear. I didn't want to throw it in the river like everyone else because it just makes me feel bad. So we decided to burn it. We piled all of our trash together on our back porch and lit it up. Unfortunately, the wind picked up right as we lit it and blew all the smoke at our house. Most Khmer houses has artfully shaped bricks that make holes in the houses to let breezes through, so even though our doors and everything were closed the smoke came in through the holes in the walls. It got really smoky in our house. Our landlady came around back about 20 minutes after we started. She thought our house was on fire... After most everything was burned we doused the fire and opened all the doors and the same breeze that blew all the smoke into our house blew it all out through the front door. Some of our clothes had a little ash on them but overall, no harm done!

Elder Vore burning trash and Elder Caine before the trash burning (opposite page)


I saw a lady edging the grass as we drove by the airport the other day. She was edging it with a cleaver. Khmers do a lot of things with cleavers (fun fact: the word for cleaver in Khmer is gkambit and the word for a normal knife is gkone gkambit or literally, the child of a cleaver) and seeing someone doing yard work with one is pretty normal. Not like people do a whole lot of yard work around here. I remembered when I was doing yard work with Matthew back in the states, boy that was a piece of cake compared to this stuff!  Shout out to Matthew Speer, are you getting these or what?

Still reading in Isaiah this week. Chapter 55 came and went a few days ago. Verses 1-3 read ''Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you''.

Imagine there is a man browsing at a store. He stumbles on a small box labeled ''ETERNAL SALVATION''. He picks it up and examines it and then asks the nearby store representative, ''How much does this cost?'' It shouldn't be too hard to figure out the punch line. Salvation is free! All we have to do is come unto Christ and partake of His ''living water'' (John 4:10) and let it change us (Alma 5:13) and He will receive us.

''Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;'' (Alma 5:33-34)

Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dec 1, 2013 I Have Chicken Poop Between My Toes

''You can party an hour a day or you can go on a mission and party all day everyday!'' -Elder Caine
It's a party in Baku! We decided to check Elder Caine's back tire the other day because it was looking a little bare. While there we started talking to a man named Chok, who said he was willing to learn and had free time at nights. Later that night he called us and asked us to come over. We taught him and his family that night and the next day and then he went to church on Sunday! Chok is an example of someone who really does want to change his life. After just a few minutes of talking with us he decided to stop drinking! Just like that! And he did. What an amazing guy. The miracles are just piling up here in Baku. 20% of our attendance on Sunday was people who are learning with us. The gospel is great!!

Also, we asked Chok if we could help him with anything and he told us that he would be trimming his chickens' beaks the following morning and invited us to help. We eagerly accepted the service project and the following morning we trimmed 2,400 chickens' beaks, and I got chicken poop all over myself. Just bucketloads of fun! :D

We were heading to the closest branch in Ta Khmao the other day when an older man driving a truck called out to us. He told us he was a member of our church and asked where we were going and if we needed a ride. We accepted his offer and rode in the car to the church. It cut like 40 minutes off of our journey but I have rarely been so scared for my life as I was in those few minutes. I learned that when you're driving a car in Cambodia, the horn is more important than the steering wheel.

To make the ride more interesting, this man speaks Khmer as a second language. His native tongue is Vietnamese and though his Khmer was better than mine, we had a little bit of difficulty in communication. Turns out, Vietnamese sounds a lot like Khmer as spoken by people in the provinces around here so when he used Vietnamese words I just thought he was using Khmer words that I didn't know. Many Khmer speakers don't like the letter R. So, rather than say the letter R they skip it and throw a tone in there.  Up tones, down tones, it doesn't really matter, it just has to be really indistinct. For example, an Elder named Elder Price served here back in March or so. They pronounce his name pee'ay'eeh with the ay being said at a lower pitch than the rest of them. Fun right? Also, I picked up like five words in Vietnamese. I'm going to try and use them and see if people actually understand me.

Some ants got into our rice and sugar the other day. I could've dug them out, dumped the rice or put it in the fridge to kill them but I just cooked it anyway, ants and all. When it came time to put some sugar in the stir fry I found that our sugar was also infested. Our lunch had a little extra protein in it that day. I wonder how many ants the average Khmer person eats in a week? It's probably a lot. Cambodians as a whole routinely ignore pests like ants, spiders and other things that don't actually bite you if you leave them alone. I guess it's not a bad thing...

I was reading in Isaiah chapter 50 this morning and was interested by the second half of the first verse which reads, ''Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away,'' however in the New Living Translation it was put slightly differently. I don't remember the exact wording but it went something like, ''No, you have been sold into slavery because of your sins and your mother has been sent away because of your unrighteous actions''.

After reading those two translations side by side I was struck by the fact that in the KJV it says that we sell ourselves while in the NLT it says that we are sold. I thought about the difference for a minute and decided that I really liked the more word for word translation in the KJV. When we sin, God does not punish us, we punish ourselves. When we sin, we act as our own jury, judge and jailer in deciding our punishment. I was reminded of my High School soccer coach who told us that he didn't pick the starting lineup, we did, and in a very real sense this is true. We are free to choose right or wrong, sin or good works (See 2 Nephi 2:27), but we are not free to choose the consequences.  When we choose to sin and not repent we are very literally selling ourselves as slaves to our sins.
So! Don't sin, and then when you do anyway, repent! No sense in reestablishing slavery, we got rid of that years ago.
Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Nov 24, 2013 What's a Khchiew???

Well it's a bat. A word I relearned this week (we learn lots of words that are never used and promptly forgotten) after I tried to explain to our landlord the animal that was flying around our living room. He (how do you check sex for bats anyway?) lives in an abandoned, locked up room on the floor above us but comes down to hang out (see what I did there? Who doesn't love puns?) every other day or so. I'm not even totally sure I want him gone. Bats eat bugs right? Maybe we can train him to eat all the mosquitoes that are living in our house. Our main source of water right now is a large tub of rainwater in the bathroom. Unfortunately, all it does is sit there and mosquitoes just love sitting water. It got even worse when our room randomly flooded between the hours of 5:30 and 7 in the morning and we had to move our bags and break out the towels and mops. I would spray the water with poison but we use that water to shower and stuff and I'm not sure which is worse. Honestly, our living conditions are fine. We having drinking water and stuff to cook and even air conditioning! It does make for funny emails home.

Also, I have essentially no time to write this email today but guess what? I met someone this week who had no idea who Jesus Christ was. Like, I know we're in the middle of nowhere, in a country where 97% of everybody is Buddhist but seriously, I was shocked. We bought a water bottle from him and I was explaining that we were missionaries who preach about Jesus Christ. I explained a little more about our message and then asked him if he had any questions. He said he he liked our ideas about how families were important but was really confused about who this Jesus Christ person was. It was a very interesting conversation. Ironically, we were actually in a different province called Kompung Speu that has a reputation around here for being somewhat undeveloped. I suppose all the provinces are relatively undeveloped. Beats me.
I really wish I had more time but I want to attach this video from lds.org:
http://www.lds.org/pages/mormon-messages?lang=eng#your-potential-your-privileges
Remember, we are children of God! He wants us to become like him and has given us this life to prepare for that eventuality. Take advantage of your privileges as a son or daughter of God and go to work! Love y'all,  -Elder Vore

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nov 17, 2013 Rip Off The White Guys‏

A little background information on the area is in order. We are now in Baku! Baku is a tiny little village of about 200 people in the middle of a larger area that most people call Siem Riap Kontuat that has a population in the low thousands (they don't exactly post these stats when you enter the town like they do in the US). The founding member here is a man in his 40s called Pov. His brother is an active member in a branch about an hour east and he invited Pov to come to church. He did, and then he went back the following week, and he kept coming, and he brought his family and they never stopped coming. When the missionaries went out to his house to make records they met other people who wanted to learn. The first group was big. Over 20 people joined in the first couple of months. A few stopped coming to church quickly because of the difficulties involved in getting there, but many of them faithfully made the trek to Ta Khmao every week for years. In March they got permission to meet as a group at Pov's house. Last week the first set of Elders proselyting full-time in Baku showed up. It's an amazing place.

Coming out here was a little bit of an adventure. Infrastructure like running water, paved roads, and convenience stores that are common in the city are much less common or completely non-existent out here. Our house actually has running water of a sort. We have tanks on our roof that collect rain water and then when we open the tap the water comes out. Unfortunately, it's a little more limited than we really understood so we quickly ran out of water after 2 loads of laundry. The last few days we have been showering like natives. Take a bucket, dip it in the well, and pour it over your head. Add soap and then repeat step 1 like 11 times. I think it works, or I haven't had anyone complain about the stench yet at least... One thing though, bucket showers are really cold. Even in our house where it gets really warm (just the bedroom had an air conditioner) the showers are a little uncomfortable. We're supposed to be able to have hot showers no matter where we go in the mission but we kind of used all of our water already. Whoops. On the positive side, it rained pretty hard last night so we should have water for the next few days. Aren't third world countries the best!

There's an open market right across the street from us, and this morning we went out to buy food for the first time. Most of these people had already heard that there were two white guys that spoke Khmer living down the street but the way they reacted to actually seeing us was pretty ridiculous. Some people tried to speak to us in English, others spoke to us very quickly in Khmer to test and see if we could understand them. One thing nearly all of them did was try to rip us off. Prices doubled the second we walked in. Most markets I go to have already known the Elders for years. I spent more time bartering for stupid things like cucumbers and pork than I ever have my whole mission. And everybody knows that the very most expensive breakfast pork and rice you can get is only 3500 riel ($1 is approximately 4000 riel) but the special price for white people today was 5000! We ended up biking for a few minutes to a place owned by a member who gave us the normal price, 2500. What a joke. 

Pretty much everyone who is reading this email is familiar with the song 'Viva la Vida' by Coldplay. It's definitely in my top few favorite songs of all time. For anyone who isn't super familiar with the lyrics I'm going to attempt to remember them for you. 

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
....

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

Ok. For those of you that are singing along, Have you ever thought about the meaning behind those lyrics? The narrator bemoans his fall from power and realizes that in the end, everything that he had rested upon ''pillars of salt and pillars of sand'' and was doomed to fall.

 In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught ''Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:(Matthew 5:19-20)''

The narrator in the song ''built his house upon the sand'', he put his faith in worldly things and when his time was up, he lost it all (Matthew 7:26). When we apply the teachings of Christ and ''lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven'' we will never have to worry about our foundation being ripped out from under us. When we change our pillars from salt and sand to faith and works and build upon the sure foundation of Christ ''we cannot fall'' (Heleman 5:12). 

Love you guys, 
Elder Vore

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nov 10, 2013 I Really Like Being a Missionary.


Drum roll please! We are going to get acquainted with Elder Caine. Elder Caine was born in South Africa in April of 1993. When he was 8 his family moved to a country called Mauritius, a small island about 750 kilometers east of Madagascar where he grew up. English is his native language though he understands French and Creole as well. Interesting though, when he tries to speak French, ''all that comes out is Khmer''. He spent two semesters at BYUI before coming out here and says he played rugby more than he studied. Shoot, if I knew how to play rugby I probably would too.

And now the downer: we're not actually in Baku yet. Our house isn't ready yet. In the US when you want to move into an apartment you can usually just go find one and move in. Apparently they had to give our new house a complete makeover because there was nothing in the area that had air conditioners, hot water and beds and such. I was all down for living in a shack next to the river and waking up at 4:30 to get fish for breakfast but apparently that's not an okay thing. Have you guys seen 'The Other Side of Heaven' ? I was thinking Cambodia would be kind of like that. I suppose 50 years does a lot for relatively undeveloped countries like Tonga and Cambodia. 

Also, I went to the zoo last week. Cambodian zoos are not like American zoos. I got to sit behind a chain link fence and look at the tiger 10 feet away from me. Monkeys weren't even in cages. They just were having a party in the zoo. Monkeys are a bunch of punks by the way! Stealing food and cameras and bags from people in our group is just not cool. Funny though. I got a lot closer to some big scary animals than I ever thought I would. Even more fun was just walking into the cages and playing with the more docile animals. Someone from another group tried to ride one of the deer things. It didn't really work. Also, when big animals step on you with their hooves they hurt.

I really like being a missionary. Can y'all tell from these emails? I'm not sure but I just wanted to make that clear. This work is an amazing work, it is hard work, and it is fun work. There is no better feeling in all of the world than bringing someone closer to Christ and seeing the change it makes in their life. Doctrine and Covenants section 18:15-16 reads, ''And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!  And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!''

That is so true. Though this is hard work, it is worth every single bit of effort we put into it. Why? Because ''The worth of souls is great in the sight of God'' (D&C 20:10). These are children of our Heavenly Father. He wants this work to succeed. This is ''[His] work and [His] glory... [bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man'' (Moses 1:39). Though this is our Heavenly Father's work, he expects us to be His hands in doing that work (see http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/you-are-my-hands). In this last October's general conference President Monson taught, ''The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).'' That is a command from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He wants us to fulfill it and we can only do so if we go out and ''preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words'' (St. Francis of Assisi). We must live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hope you guys enjoy the pictures!
Elder Vore








Monday, November 4, 2013

Nov 3, 2013 Actually, you can keep the teleporter...


Because we're going to Baku! Transfer calls yesterday and I was so sure I was heading out but instead I'm getting a new companion and heading to Baku full-time! Elder Caine and I will be moving out into the countryside and living in a little village called Siem Riep Ktuat near our little group in Baku. I am so stoked.

Had a lesson with an investigator last week who is a Christian but hasn't had the opportunity to be a practicing Christian in many years. Also, he's drunk pretty much every time we meet him. During our lesson on faith we shared a scripture from James chapter 2 verse 17 which reads, ''Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.'' After reading the verse  we asked what the verse meant to him. He paused for a moment and then said thoughtfully, ''I think it means that everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ should die''. I couldn't help myself, I actually laughed. Fortunately (this kind of seems weird to say) he was really drunk so he wasn't super aware of what was going on. We pretty much just ignored his analysis and moved on with the lesson. I'm not sure how much he got out of it.

Also, weird food of the week is pig ears. I ate grilled pig ears. Not my favorite thing but definitely edible. Not sure if I would eat that one again. Why can't we just enjoy burgers and french fries around a nice kitchen table huh?

We're going to a zoo today. Though I have seen a good share of jungle animals in the wild, I have yet to see wild elephants and monkeys. Should be quite the day. Unfortunately, that means I will be cutting this email a little short but first I want to talk about President Uchtdorf. 

President Uchtdorf learned English as a third language after his native tongue, German, and Russian, the language he needed to learn as a youth in communist East Germany. Despite English being his third language, he is quite the speaker. His sermons are always well worded, poetic and powerful. While reading through a General Conference issue of the Ensign, I was particularly impressed by one of his more well known sermons entitled 'Waiting on the Road to Damascus'. He shared the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus and of that of Joseph Smith and pointed out that though miraculous events like these do occur, if we wait for such miracles to happen to us before we begin to act in faith, we will likely be disappointed.

''The truth is, those who diligently seek to learn of Christ eventually will come to know Him. They will personally receive a divine portrait of the Master, although it most often comes in the form of a puzzle—one piece at a time. Each individual piece may not be easily recognizable by itself; it may not be clear how it relates to the whole. Each piece helps us to see the big picture a little more clearly. Eventually, after enough pieces have been put together, we recognize the grand beauty of it all. Then, looking back on our experience, we see that the Savior had indeed come to be with us—not all at once but quietly, gently, almost unnoticed.

This can be our experience if we move forward with faith and do not wait too long on the road to Damascus.'' (The Ensign, May 2011)

I testify that God wants us to learn of eternal truths and that usually He bestows those truths upon us ''line upon line'', ''precept upon precept'', ''here a little and there a little'' (Isaiah 28:13). I leave you with President Uchtdorf's commitment. ''Brothers and sisters, dear friends, let us not wait too long on our road to Damascus. Instead, let us courageously move forward in faith, hope, and charity, and we will be blessed with the light we are all seeking upon the path of true discipleship.'' (check it out at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/waiting-on-the-road-to-damascus)
That's it for me, love y'all!
Elder Vore

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oct 27, 2013 Not Quite White Shirts

Some recent converts in Baku invited the 6 Elders in our district to their house Saturday night for a Family Home Evening. This was the first time going to Baku for two of the Elders and we spent quite some time taking pictures in the rice fields on the way up. So pretty. It was a busy day in Baku. Seven back to back lessons and two baptismal interviews! Whoo! I love this place. Anyway, once we got to their house they started putting out the food. There was a lot of food. Our hosts encouraged us to eat until we were stuffed and we reluctantly obliged. The activity was a rousing success and all the Elders agreed that Baku was the happiest place on Earth (even happier than Disney World??).

We went home a little late in a big group, giving rides to several members who didn't want to make the trip the next morning. It wasn't until Sunday night when Elder Decker and Elder Mok were talking about different foods that I realized one of the dishes we had eaten the night before was filled with dog meat (Fun fact: dog meat in Khmer is sike piseh, which means 'special meat'). Some people in Cambodia are a little uneasy eating dog meat (that might come as a shock but it's true) and it's really expensive so it was kind of weird that we ate it accidentally. Apparently they did kind of announce it but 4 of us missed that little detail.

What do y'all think about substituting bleach for water when I wash my whites? Is that extreme? I'll tell you one thing that is extreme, our conditions in Cambodia are extreme. If you lined up 10 missionaries and then guessed how long they had been out in the country based only on the whiteness of their shirts, you might be pretty close. It's fairly safe to say that I am currently serving in one of the dustier areas in my mission. The big fields, road construction, long distances and relative lack of infrastructure combine to send clouds of dust in the air. Unless it's raining. Then it's just mud. Dust, sweat, mud, my blood (bike accidents), fish blood (don't ask) and other such things get on our shirts, and though I wash them every week, they are progressively getting less and less white. More of a cream color now. I've been told cream is in now. Or at least it is in Cambodia. Off white is all the rage in Southeast Asia. The rest of the world needs to catch up!

I'm still on a high from General Conference last week. Pretty awesome. President Monson spoke of rising over our trials. He said, ''Brothers and sisters, it may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery. When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.''

President Eyring spoke on this subject several years ago in a talk entitled 'Mountains to Climb''. It has since been made into short inspirational ''Mormon Message''. Watch it and be warned, it is a tear jerker.
All of us have trials. One of the great difficulties of life is dealing with the fact that not even our trials are fair! Christ taught that His Heavenly Father bestows rain on the righteous and the sinners alike (That one is in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount somewhere) and Job admitted that sometimes the wicked prosper in this life. Fortunately for us, all that is unfair about this life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

President Monson finished his remarks by sharing a poem by Douglas Malloch
Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
He then continued, sharing these comforting thoughts:  
'Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain, and our suffering. He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity. He alone touches our tortured souls with His comforting words:
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, He is with us. He has promised that this will never change.'
I testify that these things are true. Thomas S. Monson is an inspired man. When the going gets tough, the tough turn to Christ.
Love you guys,   Elder Vore

Oct 13, 2013 I Wish I Could Teleport

My area is big. I feel like we've been over this several times but it's like, really big. It doesn't really have southern or western boundaries. If we had people who REALLY wanted to listen to us we could bike for hours to go teach them. I don't really mind biking, but sometimes it really eats time. For example, on Thursdays we leave for Baku at 1:30 and bike for a little over an hour. We teach from 2:45 to 5:15 or so and then I teach English from 5:30 to 7. Then we leave so we can be back in our apartment before curfew. What if I could teleport?? We could be to Baku in seconds and teaching for hours rather than riding for hours and then teaching for well, longer than we are right now! So next time someone sends me an email and asks ''is there anything you need that we can send in a package?'' that's it. A teleporter. Also, someone needs to fix spell check so it recognizes the word teleport.

The big thing this week is the pictures I sent but I do want to tell one story. I don't know how food always manages to get into these emails but my companion and our district leader were on an exchange and they saw a snake. This one was a little bigger than most snakes we see out here and so they stopped to take pictures and look at it. After looking at it for a while they killed it with a stick, brought it home, fried it and ate It. I was actually going to try it too but I decided to go to bed before they were done so I don't have any pictures of anyone actually eating the snake. Sorry! Enjoy the other pictures?

I was talking to a young man in our branch the other day. He hasn't been to church in a month or so and keeps somewhat unsavory company. He expressed his desire to serve a mission when he got older (he's like 16 right now) and told me that he had seen that all the returned missionaries in our branch had lots of success in their lives.  I suggested that if he wanted to serve a mission later, he needed to prepare for it now.

 He thought about what I had to say and then completely dismissed it. He said he would return to activity in the church when he graduated from high school and then would prepare to serve a mission. I was reminded of some of my friends and acquaintances from high school who wanted to become doctors but had no desire to study or even go to class. ''I'll wait until college, then I'll really apply myself and get a degree'' they would say. Goals are important. We need to decide today what we want in the future. Whether it be a mission, a job, a marriage in the temple, or next week's math quiz, we have to prepare today for what will come tomorrow. We do this by applying what we know to be true (eg. going to school with help me prepare for the test, which will help me get into college which will help me get a job) and not putting off or ignoring things that will not help us or can even slow us down in the long run. Enjoy the pictures! -Elder Vore

Elder Vore before a baptism






                                                               Flooded, muddy river of Baku                                                                              

Oct 13, 2013 Pictures



Our investigator fishing with his bamboo pole in a rice field


Elder Vore and Elder Mok in Baku

                                                       
Inside the home of some Cambodian members in Baku


                                             
                                                        Adam's companion, Elder Mok



Snake!
                                                                 

 The artist (on the following page) in our branch won $1,000 dollars for this painting. That's a lot in Cambodia. She's going to wait and take her apprenticeship with some Japanese artist in 2 years because she's going to serve a mission!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oct 7, 2013 When it Rains, it Pours

Well, we've technically been in rainy season for like 4 months now and the volume of rain has consistently, though slowly, increased throughout this whole period. We're now supposed to be in the very middle of rainy season and I just assumed that we were probably near the peak of the rain. Well, I was wrong. It feels like God just flipped a switch out here and sent the rain all at once. It has rained every day, many times a day, for hours and hours at a time for this entire week. The streets are flooded, everything goes really slowly and I can't enter some of my areas because I'm not allowed to go swimming. Mostly we just keep going. It would be kind of a pain if we just shut down missionary work for a couple of months while it rained so we don't do that. It is however, somewhat difficult to persuade our investigators to come to church and other activities when the water is so high. It certainly is an adventure. It rained when we went to the market this morning. It rained when we got back. It rained when we left the house and it hasn't stopped raining since we got to the Internet cafe.

This last week was also a holiday here in Cambodia. The holiday is called Pyum Bun, which doesn't really have a meaning other than the fact that it is the name of this celebration. They start the holiday 15 days earlier by going to a wat and throwing handfuls of rice at ghosts. After the first 10 days have passed everybody gets off work and goes to their birth province (essentially everyone was either born or had family that was born out in the country and they go there) outside the city and then make a whole lot of food. Especially they make this thing that's called noom som that is a mixture of pork, beans, corn or bananas and coconut that is wrapped in rice and cooked inside banana leaves. It's basically like a tamale but with Khmer ingredients (eg rice instead of corn meal, banana leaves instead of corn stalks). I don't really understand the significance of the holiday other than the fact that those who are Buddhist (98% of everyone) go the a wat and ask for luck from their ancestors. We mostly just ate a lot of stuff.

So I was making copies at a copy center that was not the one I usually go to (closed for the holidays) and I asked a question in Khmer. A little girl right in front of me answered my question... in English. I talked to her for about 2 minutes and shoot, this little kid speaks English! I talked to her parents for a minute and learned that they had sent her to a school when she was 4 to learn and now she's 6 and speaks English just like that! I still get freaked out a little bit when people speak to me in intelligible English. Ironically, I am also floored every time I meet a foreigner who speaks Khmer. We're not racist or anything but I have certainly done some racial profiling. White people, as a rule, do not speak Khmer. I guess that's why people are so shocked when I open my mouth. I forget sometimes that I'm 5 inches taller than everybody else and have white skin and a pointy nose (Khmer noses are kind of smushed and they think pointy noses are really attractive, go figure).

Most people who are reading this right now are familiar with my great grandpa. In fact, most of you are related to him. Today I learned that this past week he was struck and killed in a hit and run accident. Obviously this news was a little shocking to me, but I'm very thankful for all the family members who sent me information about his life, his poems and his stories that were shared at his funeral this week. I love my Papa. He was a great example to me and to all of our extended family. I have had the great opportunity in the past several years to get to know him more so than I did when I was younger. He was a very kind man. I feel like the loving grandfather archetype could have been patterned after him. 

He had a very powerful testimony of the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who knew him knew that all the way up into his 90s he accepted responsibilities in our church. For most of the time I knew him, Papa was a teacher. He taught the Gospel Essentials class for new members in our congregation. He went house to house to teach members in the 'home teaching' program. He went out with the full-time 20 year old missionaries every week and testified of Christ. He was a very happy man, and he knew that his happiness came from God. He spent a great deal of his time doing his very best to spread that happiness. He taught his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and his great-great-grandchildren to love and follow the example of Jesus Christ.

 I recently read a favorite story in the Book of Mormon. It is set in a time of war. 2,000 young sons of a peaceful people volunteered to take up arms and defend their land and the land of their allies. A man by the name of Heleman took charge of these young men. Of them he said, ''And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him (Alma 53:20-21).''

When they were put into a battle situation Heleman said, ''Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.(Alma 56:47-48)'' Because of their faith in God, all 2,000 were spared. Not one died in the ensuing battle. They were taught by their mothers. 

There are many lessons we can learn from this story but the one I want to highlight today is about teaching. For us to know, we must be taught. We have to learn from somewhere and then pattern our lives after that knowledge. Christ himself was primarily a teacher. Through his teachings we ''have the words of eternal life'' (John 6:68). I encourage all of those who read this to make an effort to teach someone this week. Help them understand about what is important. Follow the example of Jesus Christ so that you will have joy (D&C 18:10,15-16). And to all of the children, grandchildren (etc.) of Hal Fanning do not doubt that he knew it. He knew it was true. Love you guys.  -Elder Vore

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sept 30, 2013 On Clotheslines and Taxi Drivers‏

So it's football season again. At least I assume it's football season. The outside world does move on without me right? It didn't just stop right before the Super Bowl in January? Football season means highlights and highlights means one handed catches, crazy moves and big hits. I especially remember the big hits that they call ''clothesline tackles''. The idea is that the guy with the football gets taken down unawares by a an arm or some other outstretched body part that hits him above the shoulders and takes him to the ground.

 I now have some personal insight to the origin of that name. I was riding around in Baku and talking to a member who was showing us around a different area. As I biked I ran into a clothesline (with clothes on it too, I really should have seen it) that pulled me backward off the seat of my bike and onto the seat above my back tire (which is there in case we need to give someone a ride) before breaking and sending to clothes into the dirt. Fortunately we knew the people whose clothes had fallen and they thought it was hilarious. I thought it was pretty funny too but the line cut my lip up a little. Football injuries, they're intense. Fun fact, football is called ball aub in Khmer which means ''hug ball''. Languages are fun.

We were heading to Baku the other day when a motorcycle driven wagon (a lomock in Khmer) stopped in front of us. The driver indicated that he was going to an area a little past Baku and if we wanted a ride we could hop on for 2000 riel (a little less than 50 cents). Well that sounded great so we got on and started talking to the other passengers. There was a twinge of concern when he turned south rather than continuing west but I knew there was another road that headed to Baku off that way and just assumed that he knew a better way. I even asked one of the passengers and he confirmed that we would be turning west again after a while. We kept going south for way too long, driving nearly 30 minutes. We finally stopped and the driver told us he was going to continue going south to his house and if we wanted to bike to Baku we should ask for directions. Ouch. We were far away from anywhere we were familiar with, our phone was not going through and the road we were on was dirt and very deserted. It was pretty crazy. We just started biking and kept going and going. We asked for directions occasionally and talked to a few people about learning with us (because hey, why not right?). After about another hour of riding, in addition to the 20 minutes before the lomock and the 30 minutes riding the lomock, we finally got to Baku. It was quite the adventure. Got to know the area a little better.

I'm reading over General Conference from April in preparation for General Conference coming up this next week. This morning over breakfast I read Elder David A. Bednar's address on chastity which included the statement, ''The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)?

That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here on the earth to develop godlike qualities and to bridle all of the passions of the flesh.'' Elder Bednar was speaking about chastity, but that statement is applicable to each of us in nearly every aspect of our lives. Today, am I going to do what's easy or am I going to do what's right? I believe that as we put that question at the forefront of our thoughts, it will be easier to make the choices that will lead us to ''happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come'' (The Living Christ). I challenge y'all, when you wake up and say your personal prayer tomorrow, ask for strength to choose the right and keep that question in mind as you start your day. Today, am I going to do what's easy, or am I going to choose the right?
Love y'all. Elder Vore

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sept 27, 2013 The Midland Reporter Telegram

The Midland newspaper ran a nice article on local LDS missionaries currently serving missions.  Here is the article online (link).  A couple of pictures from Adam's mission were included in print but are not on the website so they will be included below.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Sept 22, 2013 Grounded in Christ

So in Cambodia, phone etiquette hasn't quite progressed to the point that it has in America. It is extremely common for people to answer their phone in the middle of activities including church services. Despite the Branch President's continual pleas for members to turn off their phones we continue to have problems with it. This Sunday I heard about a guy in the other branch in Ta Khmao who was speaking to the congregation about repentance when his phone rang and he answered it. He then talked for about a minute while the congregation stared at him. We're still working with the members on this one. It sure is funny though.

You know how they say if you feed birds rice then the birds' stomachs will explode? I don't know if MythBusters have ever done this one (animal cruelty anyone) but I'll go ahead and bust that one for you. False. I have watched with some anticipation for nearly 5 months now and have not seen one single bird suffer any adverse side effects due to eating rice. They feed all their birds with rice, from chickens to ducks to other birds whose names I don't really know. No exploding birds. 

This email is going really quick because we are going to go play soccer on the other side of the city but I do want to tell a short story about a guy that we contacted this week. He sells stuff outside his house and we sat and talked with him for a good 30 minutes before trying to share a gospel related message. He responded to that with a really long comparison involving missionaries and monks (who he represented as suckers) that had to cross a very tall narrow bridge (a plate) but couldn't get along and started fighting (he begins to bang the suckers together) and then fell to their deaths (tossed them to the ground). He explained that this was the reason he couldn't meet with us. I told him that I didn't understand and he told me that it was because I was white and asked my companion if he understood. After shaking his head the man picked up one of the suckers and unwrapped it and said, ''See? It's broken! Buddhists and Christians will only get along if they leave each other alone.'' You sure meet some strange people when you do nothing but wander around trying to talk to people.

We were teaching English on Wednesday and shared the reading that was in the Teacher's Guide. It was pretty advanced reading about foundations and buildings and had a lot of words that our students didn't know. After we read it I went through and translated all the words that they didn't know. One of the words was the word 'grounded'. I didn't really know how to say it in Khmer so I just explained what it meant. The definition that I used went something like this: placed deep into the Earth and then covered to make it firm. We talked some more about foundations and so for the spiritual thought at the end of the lesson I shared a scripture that is found in the Book of Mormon.  ''And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.'' (Heleman 5:12)

Jesus Christ used a similar comparison at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) when he compared those who followed his teachings to a man who built his house upon a rock and those who didn't to a man who built his house upon sand. All of this leads to the question, what is your foundation? Our lives are very much like a large building that depends on it's foundation to stay steady. People can build their lives on many good things, many sure foundations but in the end there is only one foundation that counts.

We must built our foundation upon Christ. I drew a little picture to help explain my point. There were two houses on stilts, one built on a hill of sand and one on a boulder. I asked which one was more firm and one student correctly determined that the one built on the rock was sturdier. I then drew one more picture, much like the picture of the house on the rock, but in this picture the stilts were driven deep into the rock. Both of these pictures represent a man who built his house on ''the rock of our Redeemer'' but one of them has a more sure foundation. This man who has a more sure foundation has a faith and a hope in Christ and his great atoning sacrifice and he has gone above and beyond in the preparation of his foundation. We can each examine our lives and find ways to make our foundation firmer, stronger and more sure. Usually this will involve a change, not necessarily a change from good to bad but maybe a change from good to better. Wherever you are on your journey, now is the time to become grounded in Christ. Love you guys.  -Elder Vore

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sept 15, 2013 Eating Weeds

Boy the weeks go by quickly. I get lost in the jet stream of missionary work and then BOOM it's September already! I know, I know, it's been September for weeks now but it still manages to catch me by surprise. One of the side effects of our (sometimes) excessive planning is that I frequently forget what month or week it is because we talk so much about what is going to happen or needs to happen next week, next month or next transfer. In that sense, once October rolls around it shouldn't be a surprise at all, right? Plans to go play soccer in my birthplace (the branch I was trained in, Tuk Thla) have been nixed by the Mission Office. We aren't allowed to go to the city today because of the political demonstrating and some missionaries in the city aren't allowed to leave their houses at all. I happened to glance at the news while at the market this morning and saw video of hundreds of policemen dressed in riot gear and shields and punk teenagers throwing tear gas grenades at them. Pretty interesting.

I was eating lunch the other day, a dish called somlaw mjoo kruan, and a younger missionary asked me what vegetable was in the soup. I didn't know what it was called and as I leaned over to ask one of the Khmer Elders a missionary from South Africa answered for me and said, ''They're weeds. They went into the backyard, weeded the garden, chopped it up and put it in the soup.'' It's not really true but it does highlight something about Khmer food. They eat pretty much anything. If it's green it goes in the soup. If it moves, fry it up and serve it. Even that vegetable which is really common (it actually does pretty much just look like stalks of weeds) isn't totally digestible. Wait a few hours and you'll see it again, pretty much unchanged from it's original state. I was joking about this the other day as we made food and pointed at the leaves of a tree in our ''back yard'' and suggested that according to Khmer tradition we should put them in the stir fry. Elder Chan agreed that these leaves probably wouldn't be good but then plucked some leaves from 3 other trees and said we could put those ones in, and we did. I wonder what fried yard clippings would taste like. Probably like hot yard clippings I suppose.

I was helping one of the young men in our branch fill out his missionary application (since the forms are in English). I asked him what his birthday was and he had two. They were 4 years apart. That was a little confusing for me until he explained that he was born in Thailand and when his parents came back to Cambodia they gave him a new birthday (the day he entered the country). A lot of the Khmer Elders and Sisters have more than one birthday. Those from Vietnam usually change for educational reasons. While filling out the papers we had to make sure all the information was according to one set of documents (we went with the Cambodian documents for no real reason). The border between Cambodia and Thailand is a little more fluid than government officials would like. Mostly Thai officials. Makes me think of home.

We had a really cool lesson with a young mother named So Chiat the other day. She has learned with the Elders before and was relatively knowledgeable about such subjects as prayer, God, the mission of Jesus Christ and the role of prophets. At the end of the lesson I asked her why she had never been to church. She had a litany of reasons but none of them really had a lot of weight. We talked about change and why it was important for us in our conversion. I've thought a lot about that conversation. The word for conversion in Khmer is plahpreajetjua which means literally to change (plah) flip your heart or repent (prea means flip, jet means heart and preajet means repent) and believe (jua).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change. Those who convert and truly believe on his name will do so by changing their lives and following his will. True change isn't temporary. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can't quit and we can't go back.'' When we have an understanding of correct principals we need to carry them out for them to have worth. The worth of a solution lies in putting that solution to action. We all can remember a little more fully that ''Jesus's teachings were not meant to be theoretical'' and that true religion is repentance, or changing our habits that are incorrect and doing good works instead. Like all good stories, this one has a happy ending. So Chiat came to church yesterday! 
Love you guys,  Elder Vore

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sept 8, 2013 Week 32 A Turn for the Wet

Well, it looks as if the rainy season that everyone has been talking about is finally here. It's rained really hard every day for nearly a week now and some of the lower roads have water all the time. It wouldn't really be a big deal except that essentially all roofs (of people's houses) here in Cambodia are made of sheet metal which means that when it rains it gets really loud. I feel sometimes that I'm trying to teach people on the tarmac at LAX.

 According to the Missionary Handbook, missionaries aren't really supposed to go out when it's raining hard or there are other kinds of severe weather. I kind of feel like for us, out here in Southeast Asia, those pages are a little bit overlooked. I don't know if our leaders have actually said, ''Ignore those pages, they're for Elders and Sisters that don't live in tropical rain forests'' but we certainly are not going by the book.

So we had a lesson with a woman named Lim and her daughters Rotana, who has been a member for many years, and Ranyaa, who was just baptized a little more than a month ago by Elder Sin. Their family is doing very well right now and they were all at church yesterday. After our lesson we were just talking a little bit and I asked Ming Lim if she knew anyone that wanted to learn about Jesus Christ. She answered no but I asked her about her married daughter who lives about 10 minutes down the road. Lim told me he didn't really think her daughter was super into the religion thing and suggested that if I wanted to go talk to her I should bring something to defend myself because she would hit me. I kept asking about her daughter and eventually asked what she did for a living. I proceeded to not understand a word she said for nearly 3 straight sentences. She asked me if I had had understood and when I indicated that I hadn't, her daughter told me that her sister was a ''kruu areak'' which means a evil spirit teacher (or person who does stuff with evil spirits). That was a little weird. After explaining it to me in words that were a little more familiar (I haven't really had much of a chance to make flashcards for words about sorcery and evil spirits), I began to understand that Lim's daughter is kind of like a reverse exorcist.  She takes money from people and then calls down evil spirits through some sort of strange ritual to go and kill or otherwise bother her customer's enemies.
That was a very interesting conversation.
This email is being cut a little short because of some difficulties with the computer. Love you guys!
-Elder Vore

Hi!  This is Adam's mom.  Since Adam's email was so short this week, I decided to type a letter we got from him in the mail just the other day.  It is dated 8/10/13 so it is a month old.

Dear Vore Family,

Hello from Cambodia!  How's the weather in Odessa?  That's nice.  It's really wet here.  There are a couple of bridges that I cross nearly every day and now that it's raining a little more I can actually see the water level rising.  It looks like it's going to go past the little barriers they made in a couple of months, but I suppose they know what they're doing!  There's one bridge that I really need to send y'all a picture of, hopefully by the time you get this I'll already have sent it.  The view from the bridge is just so beautiful and green and it's just cool.  The only problem is, it's a fairly well traveled bridge, right in the middle of the "city" part of my area, so it's kind of hard to stop and snap a photo.  I want to take the picture before the water level rises over a lot of the greenery.

  The work is going well in our area.  It's much harder to find people here than in Phnom Penh, but we are managing.  We are now teaching the rest of Ranyaa's family in addition to a referral family and an old investigator that was dropped and we managed to recontact them.  Three families progressing!  It's so cool!  Glad you share my enthusiasm.  Really though, it's so nice to have people to teach.  When I got here we didn't have anybody.

  In other news, I passed my 6 month mark this last week, weird.  I still feel like I just got here, I can't believe that I've already been through so much time when I still feel like I haven't done anything yet.  Have you ever been watching a good movie and you look down at the time, realize that the movie has been going for nearly 2 hours and then feel a little sad because you want to keep watching it, you're not ready for it to end yet?  Or got to the last few pages of a book and thought the same?  That's how I feel about my mission.  I just want the time to slow down a bit so I can enjoy it.

  This letter has no order and I'm just writing what I think about so....Cool story!  Not about me though.  There's an Elder that got here the transfer after me from Utah, speaking Vietnamese.  He's a recent convert whose family speaks Vietnamese in their home.  Random side note, he's in Jon Schmidt's ward and when he got baptized, brother Schmidt played 3 special musical numbers.  Anyway, one transfer into the mission, President Moon decided Elder Tran needed to learn Khmer.  So he started learning Khmer about 4 weeks ago.  Last week his back was hurting so they took him to see a doctor who told him he had a pinched nerve or something!  I forgot, but that meant he was going home for surgery.  Because he had to leave so suddenly and it was weird timing, his flight back sent him through Shanghai where he sat by a 20 year old woman heading to the states for a 2 week school exchange.  As they began to talk, he learned she was a very recent convert to Christianity and they began talking about religion.  Through the course of their flight he taught the first 3 lessons:  The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, and the Gospel of Christ.  She is now meeting with missionaries in California and plans to be baptized before returning to China.  So cool!

  Just talked to our landlord about 5 minutes ago.  He bought this house from the old landlord last week.  We talked with him because we haven't received our electric bill yet and if we don't pay it, our power will be shut off on Thursday.  He doesn't know where it is and promised to call the old landlord about it on Tuesday.  "Tuesday?" was my reply.  He told me, "yeah, I'm pretty busy today and tomorrow but I should be able to call Tuesday."  I don't understand  Khmers sometimes.  I can understand every single word coming out of their mouths but it still doesn't make any sense.

One more example of this is when we are out contacting.  Usually we just wander down the street and talk to people who are sitting outside their houses.  I talk to people every single day who are lounging around in hammocks talking to their friends who tell me that they are just too busy to learn about Jesus Christ.  They really want to, they just don't have time.  Or returned missionaries with degrees in law or engineering that sit around at their parents' house all day and tell me that I don't understand how hard it is to find a job in Cambodia.  That's my rant for the day, going back to more positive subjects.  

Our Preach My Gospel class here in Ta KhMav is awesome!  All the youth and YSAs that have a goal to serve a mission meet every Sunday night at the church to learn from Preach My Gospel, learn from the missionaries, and practice teaching.  The future of Cambodia is bright because of how prepared and willing to serve their youth are. Returned missionaries make really good leaders at church.  This is really apparent in our branch (congregation).  I counted who was on the stand on Sunday:  President and his 2 counselors, the two blessing the sacrament and the two leading and playing piano are all returned missionaries.

It's very easy to see the blessing of serving a mission from the perspective of one guy trying really hard to make his branch grow.  We are really working on getting Melchizedek Priesthood holders active and helping those who could potentially receive it progress toward that goal because in order to have a ward/stake/functioning branch you need Melchizedek Priesthood holders to lead out.  One of the slower ways to do this is by sending all your young men on missions.  The percentage of young men serving missions from Cambodia is really high and I'm sure the percentage of young women serving is way higher than it is in the states.  Most of these young people are recent converts.  I know at least 3 that had their papers in before they were even allowed to go to the temple (members for 1 year).  Elder Sin was baptized at age 20 and before his 23rd birthday he was on a mission.  He's now approaching the end of his mission and he's been a member for almost 4 years.  Serve missions!  Love you!  Adam

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sept 1, 2013 Week 31 It's never too early for EMERGENCY TRANSFERS! :D

And just when I was settling in with Elder Sin, BOOM! Emergency Transfers. We have emergency transfers a lot here in our mission for two main reasons. First, missionaries are meeting family members or friends really often (way common here because about 35% of Elders and 70% of Sisters are natives). This gets to be a problem mostly just because it's distracting. Imagine if you were passing out pamphlets or trying to talk to people on the street and suddenly your best friend from high school came out and started chatting with you. Not a bad thing, just not conducive to being focused on spreading the message of Jesus Christ 24/7. Second, Khmer girls send love letters to the missionaries. Elder Edmunds, my trainer had this happen to him. Obviously that can lead to situations that are not good. I've heard horror stories. Everybody loves horror stories right? In any case, Elder Mok is my new companion. He's been in the mission for about a year now and he likes biking really fast. We're making the trip to Baku (a little over 30 kilos) in an hour now. It's certainly not a world class time but it feels really fast. I wish I had something to put on my bike that could count how far I traveled every day.

Speaking of trips to Baku, when we're on our way home at night we go through the rice fields as far as we can to avoid the big cars on the highway. However, there are some negative aspects to this as well. The rice paddies are really humid and warm and at night the bugs come out in swarms. It is incredible how many darn bugs there are. I'm talking bugs hitting my face every couple of seconds. Every once in a while once will poke me in the eye or fly up my nose a little but nothing that's too traumatizing. About two weeks ago I was riding back and I yawned really big and a bug flew straight into the back of my throat causing me to choke and cough. It was so startling I nearly fell off my bike. I don't know if I actually manged to spit it out or if I swallowed it. Now that I think about it, I guess swallowing a bug isn't really news here huh?

You guys know we don't use toilet paper out here right? Have I been over that? Toilets are essentially the same here as they are in the good ole USA but rather than using toilet paper to wash off, all toilets are equipped with a little spray gun connected to a hose similar to something you would find in an American kitchen sink. I was pretty skeptical at first and the first couple of times were a little hit and miss but after a week I was totally used to it, and here, 5 months later I am totally convinced that it is so much better than toilet paper (a sentiment that is echoed by all of the missionaries here). There are toilets here that you have to squat to use too. I had seen them but until recently I would just wait until I could use a normal toilet. But, of course, nature intervened. Upset stomachs are really common for us white guys out here and it just so happened that one of these stomachaches hit me while I was in Baku, where we do not have a toilet immediately available. To the squatter I went. Unfortunately it wasn't until afterward that I realized there was no spray gun! That's a downer. You know what they say about banana leaves right? (Just kidding, I happened to have a packet of tissues in my backpack, but there was actually a banana tree growing through the window).

I want to tell you guys just a little bit about the day I received my mission call. I got out of class at BYU and I had a voice mail from the Cannon Center telling me that I had received a large important looking package from Salt Lake. I was excited, but I was also nervous. I wasn't totally sure I was ready to serve a mission and didn't really know much about what a mission really was other than a lot of hard work. I had been preparing, in many ways, to serve a mission for my whole life but I didn't know exactly what to prepare for because I didn't even know where I was going! With my call in hand, I headed for my dorm, knelt and told my Heavenly Father that it didn't really matter to me where I went, but wherever I did go, I asked that He would help me to understand for myself that I would be sent to the place where I needed to go.

 Fast forward almost exactly a year later. I am at a branch family home evening in Baku and for the lesson, Pu Pov (the group leader out there) decided that we should have a testimony meeting. As I listened to the testimonies of these wonderful members I felt very strongly that I was exactly where I needed to be, among people that I loved and could help. It almost moved me to tears. As we left the activity, I remembered my prayer. I decided at that time that my prayer had been answered, not quickly or according to my desires, but answered surely, leaving no doubt. I love the quote by Albert Einstein, ''God does not play dice with the universe'' and have felt the truthfulness of that statement in my life. When we follow Jesus Christ we will be guided to where we need to go. Unexpected events and trials will occur but they are not random, nor are they in vain, but are for our profit and learning. I also learned a firsthand lesson about prayer. Our Heavenly Father is willing and even eager to give us answers to our great desires, but often that answer will come slowly. I love you guys. Hold to the rod!    Elder Vore

Aug 26, 2013 Week 30 The Back Roads of Baku

     It has not been an easy week out here. We had 3 families decide to stop learning with us for various reasons relating to their previous religion. Learning with the Elders is always a choice, we don't force anyone to listen to us, but that doesn't keep us from feeling sad when they exercise their moral agency and choose not to accept the gospel of Christ. And then there was the lady whose husband committed suicide and then his ghost came back and told her that if she kept learning with us she would get sick and die. That was pretty weird.

     We moved houses back into the city. It was kind of relief as we were without various basic commodities (Hot water, power in half of the house and no running water at all at the end) for a number of days. We moved into the city a couple of miles and are now living with the other 4 Elders in an apartment next to the church. The apartment is really skinny and has 5 stories, like a lot of buildings here in the city. Since we were the last ones in, our room is on the fourth floor. Climbing up and down four flights of stairs to get to our room is a little frustrating but we're taking it with good humor. I have suggested installing a fireman's pole to make going down a little easier but I don't know how well I explained it in Khmer. My companion told me it would probably be easier to use the stairs anyway.

     One nice thing about living in a house with a lot of guys is that Elder Sin is making food for all of us essentially 2 meals a day. We have to force him to accept our help in doing the dishes and cutting vegetables and stuff like that. What a great guy. He makes good food too. We're trying to get him to open a little restaurant after his mission. He's not so sure. Speaking of food, I had some fried frogs the other day. I've had frog before but this time it wasn't skinned or anything like that, it was just fried, bones and all. Actually pretty good. Frog is kind of like a mix between chicken and fish. I was not however, brave enough to try the fried bats (see pictures).

     The trip from Baku to our house takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to bike. The beaten stretch of highway between Ta Khmau and Baku is over traveled, has no lines or speed limits and is full of pot holes. The trip is dark and the large trucks are intimidating. Sometimes it's nice to see a car coming because the headlights illuminate our path but as the car comes closer we are blinded and when it passes we are plunged back into darkness.

 Saturday night we left Baku after a very fun activity. Our warm hearts quickly cooled as we set out on our long journey back. For the first 5 minutes or so the traffic was normal, which is not a good thing. Riding on that road is scary! However, after a few minutes a very interesting thing happened. A very large, very slow moving semi-truck pulled up behind us and began to follow us. At first I tried to pull off to the side to let him pass but it soon became clear that if anything, he was actually moving slower than us and simultaneously acting as a fantastic flashlight. The road in front of us was bright and the pot hole strewn highway was suddenly very easy to navigate. Even more, oncoming traffic that would usually come to the middle of the road (and uncomfortably close) to avoid the patchy edges of the road stayed far from us, intimidated by the 20 ton truck behind us. The truck traveled with us for over 30 minutes before passing us and moving on. I had a lot of time to think about this (there just isn't much to do when you're riding your bike for hours on end) and my thoughts kept turning to our life on Earth.

 Life is a long, dark, harrowing journey, full of pot holes and oncoming traffic. When we travel down this road alone, it is difficult and even dangerous. However, we have been promised that when we follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will be blessed with His Spirit, who will guide us. The Spirit is the third member of the godhead, whose purpose is to ''testify of [Christ]'' (John 15:26), ''teach'' us and ''bring all things to [our] remembrance'' (John 14:26), and ''guide [us] into all truth''. I testify that as we follow the promptings of the spirit, we will be protected from danger and guided to ''the narrow [way]... which leadeth unto life'', even life eternal (Matthew 7:14). I know that Jesus Christ was the perfect example, the master teacher, and I believe it is significant that on the last day of His mortal life He taught his disciples about the importance of His Spirit (See John 14-16). Follow the spirit! He will not lead you astray! That's all I've got for today. Pictures on the way!
-Love Elder Vore
                                         And me biking through the flooding

All of my pant legs are filthy!

Ruub Tot tiat! (More pictures)
                            Weird foods (snake eggs, bats other stuff that I'm not too sure about)

                                          A family we have been teaching.